27/06/2011 Daily Politics


27/06/2011

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Good morning, folks. Welcome to the Daily Politics. As strikes loom,

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the Government starts to talk tough with the unions. Are we headed for

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a destructive showdown? The Government announces the biggest

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defence shake-up for a generation. But cannot help close the black

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hole at the MoD? And remember this? A former Cabinet colleague well. We

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will discuss the legacy of Margaret Thatcher's handbag, which goes on

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With us for the duration, format army colonel, now Conservative MP,

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Bob Stewart. Welcome back. Let's kick off this morning with news

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that the Chinese Prime Minister... Premiere, rather, Wen Jiabao, is on

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his second day of a visit to the UK. He was greeted at Number Ten

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earlier this morning. He has just arrived at a Foreign Office, where

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he is signing an agreement which gives British government --

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companies access to markets in regional Chinese cities. The deal

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could potentially be worth more than �10 billion to the UK economy.

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In a moment he will be talking to the Prime Minister in a press

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conference, as well as trade, the sticky issue of China's a human

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rights record is likely to be raised. Bob Stewart, how sensible

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is it for us now to but East when it comes to trade? Absolutely. That

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is the Bigg Market. Asia is the Bigg Market, and perhaps South

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America. It's great if we go beyond Shanghai, that kind of area, going

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to the hinterland. China has stacks of money and we wouldn't mind

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having our fair share of that in trade. They import too much to us,

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we want to balance that up. Fine, the figures make sense. But I

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wonder how you, as someone who came to prominence sitting on that tank

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and shouting at people about human rights in the Balkans, how does it

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sit with you that it would mean doing deals with a country that

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does not value human rights as we do in this country? It's sad. But,

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as you said, it will be on the agenda the whole time. I hope that

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eventually China will come round. We have dealt with regimes, I have

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personally dealt with regimes that don't have much respect of human

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rights. I'm afraid that is the real world. I would love it to be

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Utopian, I would love it not to be a factor. But it is and we have to

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deal with it. Nobody is asking for Utopia, but is it not hypocritical

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to pursue action against Colonel Gaddafi because he is anti-

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democratic, a dictator, because he suppresses opposition. But many of

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those things could be talked about when it comes to the Chinese, but

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we are falling over ourselves to plug a financial hole with them.

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Actually, we're taking action against Colonel Gaddafi because he

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threatened to kill hundreds of people in Benghazi. Under the

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Security Council resolution, that is what... But there is some debate

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about whether we overstep that line. There is debate. It would be good

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for him to go. But that is not part of the Security Council resolution.

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But you take my Point Barrow, there are some values that we hold

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sacrosanct. There are regimes that don't. Some we choose to be friends

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with, others which used take action against. You are right, I'm afraid

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that is right. We will not get that perfect. Sometimes you have to dine

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with a long spoon. Maybe we are dining with a long spoon in China's

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case. Or chopsticks! Thousands of schools and colleges in England and

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Wales are predicted to close on Thursday. Civil servants will also

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walkout over reductions in pension benefits. There is little prospect

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of a settlement before Thursday. Over the last few days, the

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rhetoric has ratcheted up, as it usually does at this stage in a

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dispute. As you say, this week we are going

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to see the biggest public sector strikes for years. It could become

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a pretty drawn-out battle between the unions and the Government.

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Teachers, lecturers and civil servants are striking on Thursday

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in protests against reforms to their pensions. But other unions

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have warned that they are prepared to take action as well. Dick

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Prentice, the general secretary of Unison, says it will not just be

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short stoppages but long-term industrial action through all of

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our public services. Talks between the unions and government are

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ongoing. To be honest, there's not much sign of compromise on either

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side. Three weeks ago, the Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable

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warned that increased industrial action could cause pressure for

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tougher union laws. Education Secretary Michael Gove said that

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strike laws should be kept under review. One option would be to

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impose a turnout threshold on union ballots. He also wants schools to

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stay open on Thursday, despite the strikes, possibly with the help of

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parents. Let's look to Francis Maude, because he said that the

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Government should stop paying for full-time union officials in

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Whitehall. All of these things are contentious to union ears. Both

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sides say they want to avoid disruption to the public, but it

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now looks inevitable. We are joined by Sally Hunt,

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general secretary of the university and college union. It is one of the

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unions that are going to strike on Thursday. You want the Government

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to back down on increasing the retirement age, not to change the

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pension Index to a tougher index. Not to go to a career average

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scheme for pensions. You and I know that the Government is not going to

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give way on any of these things. Well, you make us sound

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unbelievably unreasonable. No, I don't... What we want the

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Government to do is talk. It is talking. What they are doing his

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soundbites and they been doing it for a couple of weeks. If you want

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to have credible negotiation, you want to make sure that the clear

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red lines on either side are ones that people have to explore and

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talk about. Are you wrong in saying that you want the Government to

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move on these areas? We want them to move, but we want to have a

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proper negotiation, as we have before. On what, sorry?

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teachers' pension scheme. The difficulty we have got is that we

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want to resolve the situation and, as on many occasions, we've had to

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review pension schemes because we accept we are getting old and in

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many cases we are having a healthier old age. That means we

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have to have the flexibility to explore how. What the Government

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has done over the last few weeks is, rather than say, we recognise there

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are issues around accrual rates, around 80 of retirement and

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contribution levels, rather than saying, can we explore that, set

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against what Hutton said, what the National Audit Office has said,

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they are saying, this is what it is going to be and that is it.

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negotiations are still going on? hope so, we are going into

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negotiations will stop so why are you going on strike when things are

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still going on? The strength of feeling has been to such an extent

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that we have some members now, every poorly paid, who do not

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believe that the Government is negotiating in good faith. So why

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it do you not break off the negotiations? That is not what our

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members would want. What is the point of a one-day strike? I hope

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it will make sure that the Government understands the strength

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of feeling and that we will get into a discussion that allows us to

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say, OK, now we are doing something sensible. I hope we don't have to

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strike on Thursday. Assuming none of these hopes come true, the

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Government say, well, they went on strike for one day, nobody noticed,

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what do you do next? We sit with our sister unions, we explore what

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is going to happen with the other unions moving towards industrial

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action. It seems to me that we could be moving to an autumn of a

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lot of tension. We don't want that. This Thursday's strike is just a

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token strike, whatever happens. It is a shot across the bows of the

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Government. You are running into the summer, when there is no point

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go on strike because none of your members will be working. If there's

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going to be a clash, it will be in the autumn? I think the clash is

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happening now. But you are only going on strike for one day. Having

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the Civil Service affected, schools closed down, having universities

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not able to teach... Not many people will notice. I disagree. If

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you live where I do, if you have children, as I do, you are having

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discussions right the way to the last week with parents that know

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that it is a real issue for them. Those parents, friendly, are not

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saying that the teachers and lecturers are wrong, they are

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saying, what Tanit is going on that we have a government that is not

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discussing this credibly but doing this? The Poles don't suggest there

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is much sympathy for you. But we will see when the strikes take

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place. -- polls. Why should harder and tax money be used to keep union

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officials and a job? -- hard-earned tax money. If we go beyond that

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emotive discussion... What's the answer to the question? �80 million

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of taxpayers' money is used to pay workers, not to do work, but to be

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full-time union officials. Why? make sure, in many cases, that we

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have a good industrial relations, to make sure that people at work

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are represented, to make sure that you have a good and well working

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workplace. What is happening most of the time, if I might say so, is

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that people that represent people and trade unions are doing it in

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their own time. They are not generally doing his... Some are

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getting bigger salaries, �80 million a year is a lot of money.

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Some across the public sector are given support by employers. A lot.

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They recognise that it makes sense to have people who are experienced

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and know what they're doing. The majority of people that give their

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time give it of their own free will and do it because they care about

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making sure that people in their work are looked after and are safe.

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That's something I'm not going to be defensive about. We can bring

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the colonel in. You get the impression that the Government has

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made up its mind what it wants to do. To call what it is doing at the

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moment negotiation is really not the proper meaning of that word. At

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the very most, it's prepared to tinker at the margins. That's not

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negotiation. I think it's trying to negotiate. I very much hope that we

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will not have a strike. But you are, treat our viewers seriously, there

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will be a strike on Thursday. not convinced of that. Do you want

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to put a tenner on it? Actually, no pulled that yes, because you know

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there is going to be one. What the unions want to know is how much

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flexibility is their on these issues on the table? Or is the

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Government going through the notions of negotiation for form's

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sake? I don't think it is going through the motions. It does

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actually want to get a decent compromise. It also wants to make

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sure that teachers at all levels get treated properly. Where should

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it compromise? I don't know the details of where it is going to

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compromise. I know damn well that negotiations should continue, even

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though there is a striker. And I agree, negotiations should continue.

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I hope it doesn't come. I would almost put my tenner. You are on an

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army pension, I'd keep your money if I were you. We are beating the

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Government this afternoon. It seems that you haven't got much hope that

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there will be any movement. Were they to talk, if they will look at

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the age of retirement, if they will look at the 3% tax they have put on

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our members, if it will look at the accrual rates, if they will say,

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actually, Danny Alexander in his press statement was not doing the

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negotiation, but we are and that is not where we are. Unfortunately,

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:12:47.:12:47.

Listening to all of these ifs, I think we'll see you on the picket

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line. I'm glad you're going to join us! We will just be there as

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journalists. Cup of tea? Even a copy, if you are nightspots of more

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than I get here! They are going to need to find more

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than a tenner, it's been called the bigger shake-up of the armed forces

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for a generation, Liam Fox is going to tell the House of Commons about

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plans to slim down the command structure. Mr Fox has said that he

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wants to put an end to the infighting between the army, navy

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and air force and bring costs under control. With continued commitments

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in Libya and Afghanistan, semi in the military are complaining that

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ministers are already stretching resources beyond their limits. --

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some in the military. Return from Afghanistan and a

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jumble of the motions for everyone. Joy, pride and perhaps sheer relief

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that they are home, for now. We have heard a lot of talk in recent

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weeks from politicians and retired top brass about overstretched, the

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idea that we are asking our armed forces to do too much with too

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little. If it does exist, what is the effect on the people at the

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sharp end, our service personnel and their families? People like

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Nina and Ryan Gillette. Right and left the Army in January after two

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tours of Afghanistan. He accepts that politicians are trying to help,

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but there are still problems. Sometimes they might over-expect

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what the army is able to do. What I saw in terms of overstretch was the

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fact that the regiments were not big enough to cope with the

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operational requirements. A big thing for the guys is that when

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they do a six-month tour they do want to come back and spent time

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with their families. commitments are causing concern and

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tension at the highest level. Plans to streamline the very top of the

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armed forces, in an attempt to improve their efficiency, will be

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announced today. But will they actually relieve the pressure?

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terms of families that talk to us, there is evidence of overstretch.

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With the redundancies facing all three services, they are doing the

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same amount of work with less people. The Army families

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Federation has also discovered evidence of a problem with leave.

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More than 60% of those who took part in an informal survey said

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that they or their partners had struggled to take all of their time

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off, something that Ryan and Nina experienced. None of our friends

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could come to our wedding because they can get the time off. These

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are the things, there's not much time to get your annual leave. The

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minute you go back, you've got your post opera leave, then you are

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straight into training again. So, it becomes a problem. While no one

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doubts that ministers meanwhile, they may need to take bold

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Ministers need to look at the decisions that were made and re-

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examine some of them, perhaps even reverse them. People can still see

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us doing the same amount of work, but with less people. No one joins

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the armed forces for an easy life, and that includes the families. But

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they do expect a fair deal. Colonel Bob Stewart is still with

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us. We also joined by Dan Jarvis, a former Army officer. How will get

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of Reading nearly all of the military representation on the

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Defence board improve decision- taking? The Chief of Defence Staff

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is meant to represent all three, and all three are meant to work to

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him. I can see a slimming down being quite a good thing, and have

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always thought that, ever since I worked as a major in the Ministry

:16:38.:16:43.

of Defence. There were too many generals. And there are too many

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admirals and too many Air Commodores. Why not get rid of this

:16:47.:16:53.

top-heavy top brass? That is what the plan is, isn't it? No, it is

:16:53.:16:58.

simply not to let them sit on the Defence board. It is a slimming

:16:58.:17:04.

down as well. We have more admirals than we have ship's! And probably

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more generals than there are regiments, you're absolutely right.

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And more civil servants and the MoD than soldiers in uniform! Some of

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those 60,000 are people who do guarding of bases and release

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soldiers. It is not quite as easy as that. I agree that slimming down

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the top ranks in the armed forces, but the Chiefs of Staff will decide

:17:30.:17:36.

exactly who goes as I understand. Why is our defence procurement so

:17:36.:17:45.

useless? I have no idea. I remember in the early 1980s, when I was a

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major, watching Michael Heseltine come in and saying, I'm going to

:17:49.:17:55.

sort out procurement with lean look and sharp sword, but with the

:17:55.:18:00.

Ministry of Defence, the problem is, it is like you put a huge great

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ball of party at the end of a corridor and run at it really hard,

:18:04.:18:09.

and you get off and say, look, I have made a big impression. But you

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turn around, and it has gone back. But we have got to drive. That is

:18:16.:18:20.

certainly true. But the assets that this government has at the moment

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that it inherited from the previous government, obviously, they haven't

:18:24.:18:33.

had time to make many changes. I wonder, as a tax payer, but we are

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paying �36 billion in defence, the Defence Secretary reminded us this

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morning that even after these cuts, we will be the fourth-biggest

:18:40.:18:45.

defence budget in the world, and we seem to be struggling to keep a

:18:45.:18:50.

couple of tornadoes of Eurofighter has over the skies of Libya. It is

:18:50.:18:53.

essential to do what we can to achieve the best value for the

:18:53.:18:56.

taxpayer. What is more important is that our service people who serve

:18:56.:19:02.

on a frontline get the right kit been the right places. From my

:19:02.:19:07.

experience of Iraq and Afghanistan, I had the right kit. It wasn't true

:19:07.:19:13.

from the start, though. That is right. This is precisely why the

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Government should do the right thing and had a new chapter. There

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are currently making significant decisions about resources based on

:19:22.:19:27.

how the world was in October 2010, and not have it is today. But isn't

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there a better hypocrisy in that? Your government didn't have a

:19:34.:19:41.

defence spending review in 10 years. Remember what happened to John

:19:41.:19:48.

Nott's defence review? They then invaded the Falklands. You didn't

:19:48.:19:55.

do one for 10 years. I think the parallel is 9/11. There was then a

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new chapter, which sat on top of the SIDS are from 1998. The Prime

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Minister fundamentally misunderstood my question the other

:20:07.:20:11.

day. Nobody is saying that we need a second review, we need a new

:20:11.:20:17.

chapter to sit on the board. But it doesn't mean that you don't

:20:17.:20:22.

Revisited. So will there be a new chapter? There will be a continual

:20:22.:20:26.

vision of what has happened, and that is sensible. It is normal

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merge to practise. Given the experience of what has happened, as

:20:31.:20:34.

Mr Jarvis has points out since the review came out, what differences

:20:34.:20:40.

would you like to see made now? can tell you what I would like!

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That is what I asked. I would like to have an aircraft carrier back.

:20:45.:20:52.

But we haven't got that. And if you do that, what are you going to cut?

:20:52.:21:00.

As Dan said, the world has moved on. But I do slightly disagree. The

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Libyan operation, the one we are talking about, we wouldn't do it

:21:04.:21:12.

differently. We probably wouldn't use Harriers. We want to see the

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restoration of three infantry battalions cut by Labour as soon as

:21:16.:21:21.

possible. We will never be able to really improve the welfare of our

:21:21.:21:30.

forces unless we look at expanding army. The first was Dr Liam Cox,

:21:30.:21:36.

the third was the now Prime Minister. -- Dr Liam Fox. What

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happened to that? We haven't got the money. If you actually want to

:21:41.:21:46.

run a defence budget, you still have to do it within limits. The

:21:46.:21:53.

world has changed. We haven't got the money to do everything we want.

:21:53.:22:00.

Labour's job is to do a critique of government defence policy. But

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Labour leaving behind this �38 billion black hole kind of

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undermines things, doesn't it? don't accept the detail about �38

:22:13.:22:18.

billion. Everybody else does. don't think they do. The point

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about resources is that we need to be spending money based on how the

:22:21.:22:26.

world this today, and that is why we need, in light of the Arab

:22:26.:22:34.

Spring, to really look at the S D S R, a new chapter. To make sure that

:22:34.:22:37.

the billions of pounds that we are spending is spent in accordance

:22:37.:22:41.

with the world today and not the world prior to the Arab Spring.

:22:41.:22:45.

We have to leave it there, although I make prediction that in 10 years

:22:45.:22:49.

somebody will be sitting in this chair asking some other MP why it

:22:50.:22:55.

the procurement is so useless! It really is just as well that

:22:55.:23:01.

Andrew has been a good boy this morning. Because I have got my bag.

:23:01.:23:06.

I have brought it into the studio. Are you leaving home?

:23:06.:23:12.

Know, that is a handbag. I carry it around every day. The handbag was

:23:12.:23:17.

Lady Thatcher's weapon of choice. Mine is a satchel, very old, heavy

:23:17.:23:27.
:23:27.:23:28.

and dangerous. Margaret Thatcher and her use of the hand -- fashion

:23:28.:23:33.

accessory even gave rise to the term handbagging. Her handbag is to

:23:33.:23:37.

go on sale at Christie's today. Here is a reminder of some of its

:23:37.:23:47.
:23:47.:24:12.

moments. # We are living in a material world,

:24:12.:24:22.
:24:22.:24:40.

# Living in a material world, We all have our own recollections

:24:40.:24:45.

of that terrifying handbag. With us now we have the fashion expert

:24:45.:24:52.

Caryn Franklin. It was almost like a suit of armour. It was, but it

:24:52.:24:56.

was also ultimately the symbolic of a woman in a job where she was

:24:56.:25:03.

among us, the rest of the team were men. It became something that said,

:25:03.:25:09.

this is a woman. And it was fashion's act of logistics, her

:25:09.:25:14.

life went in there. She was organised, she was and jangling

:25:14.:25:21.

change in her pockets, not knowing where her keys are. It came to

:25:21.:25:25.

represent somebody who was authoritative, very organised. And

:25:25.:25:31.

it would go on the table. It is interesting that you think it

:25:31.:25:37.

feminised her, because for many it was felt that she might take a

:25:37.:25:45.

swing at them! Were they very expensive? It is gaining mythology,

:25:45.:25:52.

this handbagged! It was just a handbag. I think that is the point,

:25:52.:25:55.

because something can be just a jacket are just a pair of shoes,

:25:55.:26:00.

but this was more than that. served a purpose. There is nothing

:26:00.:26:06.

sire -- stylish about any item unless it serves a function. But it

:26:06.:26:10.

was a prop. You can look at various politicians, Winston Churchill and

:26:11.:26:20.
:26:21.:26:22.

his cigar, for instance. Harold Wilson's unsmoked pipe. And then

:26:22.:26:26.

behind closed doors it turned into a cigar and the beer tent to brandy.

:26:27.:26:35.

He was saying, I am a man of the people. But other women might want

:26:35.:26:43.

to relate to this, but if a man had a bag... I will defend any female

:26:43.:26:47.

politician's right to have a bag! We had time on our hands, so here

:26:47.:26:51.

is what we think David Cameron would look like with a man back.

:26:51.:27:01.
:27:01.:27:09.

This is what Andrew Neil would look Hold it properly! If you think,

:27:09.:27:15.

�100,000, the value of that, would anything that you had to be worth

:27:15.:27:22.

that? Is that how much it might raise? Her last Salvatore Ferragamo

:27:22.:27:32.
:27:32.:27:33.

We are looking at a woman's handbag, and she was a rare woman in a man's

:27:33.:27:43.
:27:43.:27:43.

world. If you look at Nelson Mandela, he weaves together to

:27:44.:27:47.

heritages, an African style of design on his shirt but a very

:27:47.:27:53.

Western shirt. Another man who wears a sharp suit and a novelty

:27:53.:28:03.
:28:03.:28:04.

tie today. Tell me about the handbag. In 1982, my company, the

:28:04.:28:13.

company in Cheshire, -- a company abroad, was blown up, and Margaret

:28:13.:28:19.

Thatcher came out to Ireland, and I went around the hospital with

:28:19.:28:25.

Margaret Thatcher. I have to say, she was astonishingly kind. She

:28:25.:28:32.

went round the bends, and one-bed, she was visibly moved to tears. The

:28:32.:28:36.

end result, she sat down and cuddled a man. People say she's

:28:36.:28:40.

terribly good personally. And then she went out and gave the press

:28:40.:28:49.

With Andrew Neill and Anita Anand.

As strikes loom, the government starts to talk tough with the unions - are we headed for a disruptive showdown?

We talk to Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union - one of the teaching unions which plans to strike on Thursday.

The government announces the biggest defence shake-up for a generation - can it help close the black hole at the MoD? That is one for our guest of the day, the former army colonel and now Conservative MP Bob Stewart. Also joining the discussion is Labour MP and former army officer Dan Jarvis.

And we discuss the legacy of Lady Thatcher's handbag, which goes on sale today.


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